Putin Condemns Threats by Wagner Group Leader, Reaches Agreement

Orinoco Tribune, June 24, 2023 —

On Saturday, Russian President Vladimir Putin issued a message to the nation regarding the situation created by the Wagner group after its leader, Yevgeny Prigozhin, was accused of trying to organize an armed “insurrection.” Putin described Prigozhin’s actions as a “military mutiny” and pointed out that any revolt is “a deadly threat.” Hours earlier, Prigozhin accused the Russian Army of shelling one of his camps and called for an uprising against the military command amid the military operation in Ukraine, in which the Wagner group is participating.

“We faced a betrayal. Exorbitant ambition led to a betrayal of Russia,” Putin said.

In this context, the Russian president stated that the Russian Armed Forces received the order to neutralize those who participated in the mutiny, admitting that the situation in Rostov-on-Don remains complicated, as the civil and military administrations’ work is effectively blocked.

He also stressed that the country’s authorities would prevent a repetition of events that divide Russia, referring to the imperialist-led civil war of 1917-1922. “We will protect both our people and our state against all threats, including internal treason,” he added. “As Russia’s president and commander-in-chief, as a citizen of Russia, I will do everything in my power to defend the country, protect the constitutional order, life, security and freedom of its citizens,” Putin stated.

“Russia today is fighting an uphill battle for its future, repelling the aggression of neo-Nazis and their masters. The entire military, economic and information machine of the West is directed against us,” he said, calling to “put aside everything that weakens” the country.

“We fight for the life and security of our people, for our sovereignty and independence, for the right to be and remain Russia, a nation with a thousand-year history,” the president added. According to Putin, the actions dividing “the unity” of Russia are, “in fact, an apostasy” to the people. “It is a stab in the back to our country and our people,” he stated.

On Friday night, the Russian Defense Ministry dismissed statements attributed to Prigozhin about an alleged attack launched from Russian lines against one of the private military company’s bases, declaring them untrue. A video of the alleged offensive was also branded a fake.

“All messages and videos spread on social media platforms on behalf of Prigozhin regarding the alleged ‘attack of the Russian Defense Ministry on Wagner’s rearguard camps’ are false and constitute information provocation,” the Russian military agency stated.

Criminal case
The Federal Security Service (FSB) said that the criminal proceedings against Prigozhin were opened “under Article 279 of the Criminal Code of the Russian Federation for organizing an armed insurrection.”

“Their actions will be subject to appropriate legal assessment,” the institution said. The FSB also urged Wagner’s members to avoid making “irreparable mistakes,” to disobey Prigozhin’s “treacherous criminal orders,” and to take measures for his arrest.

The Wagner Group
The Wagner Group has been described as a “private military company” or “defense and security services company,” while Western media calls it a “mercenary organization” or “paramilitary group” in a similar but inverse way to how similar Western companies, such as former BlackWater (now Academi) or Silvercorp, are referred to.

Thousands of members of the Wagner group are estimated to support Russian troops in the military operation carried out in Ukraine since 2022 in response to actions by NATO member countries against Russia, supported by Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky.

Lukashenko mediation
On Saturday afternoon, an agreement between Moscow and the Wagner private military company was reached through the mediation of Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko. According to Russia’s Presidency Spokesperson Dmitry Peskov, Lukashenko was involved in the negotiations with Wagner’s founder, as he has known Prigozhin personally for about 20 years. “It was his personal initiative,” he added, as reported by RT.

According to the Kremlin, the agreement stipulates the end of legal proceedings against the head and members of the group. The members of the private military group will also not be prosecuted, considering their merits on the fronts of the Ukrainian conflict. Peskov stated that President Putin’s team “has always respected their achievements.”

The agreement will close the criminal case against Yevgeny Prigozhin for the military uprising initiated on Friday. According to Peskov, Prigozhin, Wagner’s boss, “will go to Belarus.” Several combatants who refused to participate in the Prigozhin mutiny will sign contracts with the Ministry of Defense.

The presidential spokesperson also described the past day as “quite difficult” and “full of tragic events,” adding that it would have no impact on the military operation in Ukraine, which will continue.

On the possibility of readjustments in the Defense Ministry, which was the declared target of Wagner’s mutiny, Peskov stressed that this matter “is in the power of the Russian president” and that it is “unlikely” to have been discussed during the communications to resolve the situation. In this regard, he said he was unaware of any change in Putin’s confidence in Defense Minister Sergey Shoigu.

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